By Bob O’Connor
Saving energy is not only good for the planet but also good business. Since its recent 11,500 square foot expansion, the Littleton Food Co-op in New Hampshire has reduced its per-square-foot heating costs by a whopping 44%! It also reduced its electricity bill by 39%! Some of these fuel savings resulted from some pretty standard processes such as deep insulation in walls and roof along with triple glazed windows installed by Trumbull-Nelson Construction. Converting lighting to LEDs (light emitting diodes) reduced the electric bill but efforts to reduce energy costs did not stop there.
CFW Electric installed 105 solar panels located on the roof to reduce the amount of electrical energy the store must obtain from the grid. Making use of a law of physics, lowering all of the light fixtures suspended from the ceiling allowed lower powered light sources to produce the same illumination in the store. Have you ever felt when shopping in some stores that you needed a jacket in the aisles surrounded by open coolers? Installing doors on older coolers and having doors on all of the new ones saved energy and solved this problem. Certain display cases, such as fresh produce, have remained open because of popular demand (the very nature of co-ops make them sensitive to the wishes of their members). To reduce energy costs in these open coolers, the cooled air flow is carefully directed to reduce the amount of cold air flowing into the aisles. At the end of each business day, the lights in these cases are shut off and curtains are drawn to further prevent cold air moving into the aisles. Rodney Mitton, one of the managers of the co-op, said these last techniques have resulted in a much warmer store at the beginning of each winter day.
The Littleton Food Co-op is one of the few places in New Hampshire where the beer you take home during the winter months has been cooled by pure, cold mountain air! During these cold months, instead of running large compressors, cold air from the outside is circulated through many of the large coolers. When the compressors are in use, the waste heat produced is used to pre-heat incoming water to the hot water system.
Motion detectors in many areas make sure that lights are on only when there is activity in these places. While not decreasing energy use, the display cases in the produce section were made by Gallen Career and Technology Center students to the exact specifications the co-op desired. This goes along with the co-op’s guiding principle to make use of locally produced products. The electrical vehicle charging stations located in the parking lot are used at a much higher level than expected. With many automakers coming out with new electric vehicles and the fluctuating prices of gasoline, this benefit will no doubt be expanded in the coming years.
The next time you visit the Littleton Food Co-op, look around and see a very practical example of how those in the North Country must adapt to the rising cost of fossil fuels and the effects of climatic changes.
Bob O’Connor is a member of the Littleton, NH Energy Conservation Committee. Bob is a retired science teacher and spent 15 years managing a local cable access TV station.